UGA faculty create award to mark recent grad’s spirit and determination

mark1 markfaircloughMark Fairclough graduated from the University of Georgia this weekend with a top honor — one that College of Public Health faculty created to recognize his perseverance and determination in earning his degree.

“I just got an award … just for being myself,” Fairclough said. “I didn’t know that would mean so much to everyone else.”

The faculty presented Fairclough with the Spirit of Health Promotion Award on Friday, after he worked his way through school, retaking multiple classes and overcoming a learning disability that can make some academic tasks, like writing, difficult.

“It’s like processing things slowly,” Fairclough said. “I don’t know if it’s really a disability.”

Teachers placed Fairclough in special-education classes in primary school, but he started pushing himself to learn more and more during high school, he said.

“I like to learn,” Fairclough said. “I got motivated to conquer all of the things that I could.”

Fairclough enrolled at UGA after attending a community college for two years, and he wasn’t ready for the rigorous academics at the university at first, he said. He had to retake several classes, but he didn’t want to drop out of school just because he didn’t have great grades, he said.

“I take pride in getting things done. I don’t let (obstacles) stop me,” he said.

Fairclough will look for a job in the next few weeks, and he’s also thinking about graduate school, he said.

“Mark is one of the most cheerful and unflappable students that I have ever worked with,” said Katie Hein, undergraduate coordinator at the College of Public Health. “He had to work really hard to get through college.”

Hein met Fairclough four years ago and has advised him during his time in the college, she said. He also attended two of her classes.

“Whenever there was something that could have stopped him, he didn’t get discouraged; he remained cheerful and upbeat,” she said. “He’s the kind of person — he just knocks your socks off.”

The College of Public Health faculty wanted to recognize the effort that Fairclough has put into earning his degree, but most of the awards the college previously handed out were more for academic achievements like high grades, she said.

“He really deserved recognition, and so we developed an award that we’re calling the Spirit of Health Promotion Award,” Hein said. “I have never been prouder of a student that’s come through this program.”

– Erin France

Posted May 14, 2012.